The NFL regular season concludes Sunday night with the most meaningful game of the weekend between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee. Despite being the road team, the Colts are favored by 3.5 points in this game with an over/under of 43.5 points.
Both teams enter this game in identical positions. They are both 9-6 and tied for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. The winner will clinch a playoff spot, and the loser will start their offseason early. In fact, if the Texans lose on Sunday, the winner of this game will end up at the top of the AFC South and host a playoff game next week, most likely against the Texans.
When these two teams met in Week 11, the Colts dominated at home, winning 38-10. The caveat is that Marcus Mariota was knocked out of that game late in the 1st half, forcing Blaine Gabbert to enter the game in the 2nd half with the Colts already ahead 24-3. This game figures to be a little more competitive than that meeting, especially with so much on the line.
That’s Gotta Sting
Mariota is officially listed as questionable to play Sunday after picking up a stinger last week. While he hasn’t had a full week of practice, it’d be hard to imagine Mariota not finding a way to play against the Colts. Of course, Mariota hasn’t exactly excelled this season. He’s gone three straight games without a touchdown pass and has just 11 on the season. On the bright side, Blaine Gabbert has been a viable replacement when called upon this season.
Regardless of who plays quarterback, the Titans are going to keep riding Derrick Henry as much as possible. Out of nowhere, Henry has exploded for 492 rushing yards and seven touchdowns over the last three weeks. He may hold the key to Tennessee’s playoff hopes. However, this week he’ll have to carry the Titans against an Indianapolis defense that’s giving up just 3.8 yards per carry on the ground this season.
Only a Little Luck
Andrew Luck’s return this season has clearly been the catalyst for Indy’s turnaround. But it’s been far from a one-man show. The Indianapolis offensive line has done an outstanding job of keeping Luck on his feet this season, giving up just 17 sacks in 15 games. Also, when Marlon Mack gives the Colts a steady rushing attack, the Colts have been a different team, as they can stay balanced on offense and not rely on Luck to carry them.
However, Luck and the Colts may not be able to score with each this week against a tough Tennessee defense. Despite giving up 38 points to Indianapolis earlier this year, the Titans are giving up just 18 points per game on the season, including a total of 25 points over their last three games. Also, T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron, Indy’s leading receivers, are both listed as questionable this week, so Luck’s supporting cast may not be as strong as usual.
Down to the Wire
All signs point to the Colts winning this game, especially with the uncertainty regarding Mariota. But in such a big game, it’s hard to see the Titans folding like they did earlier this season against Indianapolis, especially at home. Look for this game to be decided by a field goal, which means the Colts could win without covering. Bet on the Titans to at least beat the spread against the Colts on Sunday night.